West Africa Takes the Lead in African Agri-tech

The use of technology in agriculture, throughout the world, has grown by leaps and bounds over the last five years. Within Africa, growth within the agri-tech startup industry is dominated by West African nations.

According to
The Agrinnovating for Africa: Exploring the African Agri-Tech Startup Ecosystem Report 2018, 44 per cent of all of Africa’s agri-tech startups are accounted for by the West African region, spread across six different countries.

Despite the fact that “Kenya was the pioneer of agri-tech on the continent…the sector has recently accelerated in West Africa, and now Nigeria ties with Kenya as the top agri-tech markets in Africa, with Ghana making up the top 3”.

The report showed that African agri-tech startups grew by 110 per cent since 2016, with West African countries showing the most accelerated growth.

Coinciding with the findings of the Partech Analysis report 2018, which found that 124 African tech startups raised a total of $560 million in equity over 128 rounds (53 per cent year on year growth), this comes at a time where the use of technology is beginning to be seen as the most viable option to resolving many of Africa’s extremities.

These developments also draw attention to the fact that in regards to technological advancements, West Africa is beginning to catch up to East African and South African countries. Interestingly, agriculture-focused e-commerce platforms accounted for 39.2% of the startups in the report.

The report also detailed that in addition to Nigeria and Ghana, The Gambia is now home to its own active agri-tech startup scene; with one example being fledgling company Farm Fresh Gambia, the country’s first online fresh food e-commerce platform, that finds markets for farmers to sell their produce online, where users are able to purchase them. In December 2017, IT News Africa reported that Farm Fresh Gambia had been selected to take part in Nigeria’s Co-Creation Hub’s Make-IT accelerator programme.

One of Nigeria’s successful agri-tech startups is Farmcrowdy, a digital agriculture platform focused on giving people the opportunity to invest in agriculture by connecting farm sponsors with real farmers. Farmcrowdy allows sponsors to choose what kind of farms they want to invest in, and then allows them to use the investment to do what they feel will best increase productivity.

Agrocenta, is a Ghanaian agri-tech startup. Its general idea being to solve two critical age-old problems. The first is a lack of access to the market for smallholder farmers in rural areas, and the second, a lack of a coordinated truck delivery system to transport commodities from farms to markets. Agrocenta seeks to resolve this by introducing an online sales platform connecting smallholder farmers to an online market.

In his book, Agricultural productivity in Africa: Trends, patterns, and determinants,  Samuel Benin explains that “agricultural growth in Africa lags behind overall economic growth, and the continent’s agricultural performance has fallen further behind that of other developing regions of the world”. Previous attempts made by African governments to rejuvenate the economy’s agricultural sectors through policy and investments have been perceivably unsuccessful. As a result, the use of agri-tech has been suggested as the solution to Africa’s productivity challenges.

According to Alliance for Green Africa, an organization focused solely on agricultural products in Africa, increased investment is the solution to Africa’s agricultural problems. An example of this was demonstrated at last year’s annual African Green Revolution forum, where the African Development Bank pledged $24 billion towards the development of agribusiness projects in Africa. Pledges such as this go a long way in further fuelling the growth of the industry and building the confidence of new entrants to the field. 

With West Africa only beginning to dominate Africa’s agri-tech sector, it will be interesting to see the advancements the region makes in the coming years.